Q: I have an idea for a humor book, and I have all the materials that are going to be included in the book. There's a similar one on the market right now that's been doing very well. How do I go about getting my book published and how do I market it or get it sold in bookstores?
A: Getting a book published is a multiyear marketing project that, though rewarding, will at times demand all the persistence and energy you can muster. Your biggest job will be to conduct an aggressive publicity program in traditional media and on the Internet. Publishers rarely do much publicity for all but their biggest "name" authors. You can expect them to send out review copies and an initial press release, then support you by sending additional copies of your book to media that express an interest in interviewing you or writing a review. Beyond that, you'll probably be on your own.
Following the publisher's initial press release, your first step is to create a proposal to accompany your manuscript that details what the book is about, why you're the only one who can create it, who will buy this book, its competition and how you plan to help market it. There are several books available on how to create an effective proposal, including The Literary Agent's Guide to Getting Published and Making Money from Your Writing by agent Bill Adler. There's help on the Web at www.KellerMedia.com , where top literary agent Wendy Keller has created online classes on how to write a book proposal and find a literary agent or publisher.
Once you have a solid proposal and manuscript, search for an agent who specializes in humor books. Literary Market Place , a comprehensive reference book listing agents and publishers, is available online at www.literarymarketplace.com and gives handy information including which agents prefer to receive query letters prior to receiving manuscripts and proposals. Your agent will solicit bids from publishers and walk you through the contract stages. Following that, you'll work with your publisher to edit your book while they get pre-orders from stores.
Your biggest job will be to conduct an aggressive publicity campaign in traditional media and on the Internet. Following the publisher's initial press release, you should send targeted mailings or broadcast faxes to additional print, radio and TV media, and follow up with phone calls. Set up a Web site for the book and participate in related discussion groups using a signature line with the book title. While your primary publicity push should focus on coverage immediately before and after publication, your marketing program may continue for as long as your book is in print.